What Did You Recycle Today?

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Men laying new hardwood flooring

Everyone knows to recycle glass, plastic and paper products. In fact, new data released by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency shows that Americans recycled and composted approximately 32.5 percent of their waste in 2006. Despite these glowing statistics, dumpsters are overflowing with all kinds of remodeling waste that can be recycled or reused.

Drywall disposal
Drywall and plaster are the most common remodeling waste materials that are improperly disposed of. Drywall can be recycled and made into new drywall products. Gypsum (the white stuff between the paper in drywall) can be reused as a soil amendment, in the production of cement and as an ingredient in many types of commercial products. Since the gypsum makes up approximately 90 percent of the weight of a piece of drywall, if the gypsum can be recovered, the majority of the material can be recycled, including the paper on the outside.

Wood waste

Wood products, such as framing materials, that are removed during a renovation can have the nails and screws removed and be reused for future projects. The moldings, doors and windows can also be relocated. If there is no use for the material, the lumber can be recycled and used for landscape mulch, in particle-board products or even paper products.

Metal materials
Old aluminum siding, copper wire and pipe, cast iron, steel pipe, sheet metal, old electric motors, nails and screws all can be recycled. Metal is one of the few items that you can earn money by disposing of it—just take it in to a scrap company, and they will actually pay you for the waste. If you don’t want to bother with going to the scrap company, just set the metal waste out by the street and it will disappear in less than 24 hours—like magic!

Appliance awareness
Light fixtures, plumbing fixtures and appliances that are still in good shape may be hard to throw away. You may want to list them on eBay or Craigslist and try to get a few bucks for them. If you don’t have the time for that, there are organizations that take donations of appliances and fixtures, such as Habitat for Humanity, local churches or Goodwill. Even though you do not have a use for it, someone else may. If the fixtures are not worth donating, they can be recycled with the other metal waste.

Recycling challenge
Most construction waste in North America is still disposed of in landfills. Challenges to widespread recycling include collection and separation, low landfill disposal fees and the need for the education of potential end users of the recycled materials.

Recycling Stats
➤    251 million tons of municipal solid waste was generated by Americans in 2006
➤    82 million tons of that waste was recycled and composted
➤    31 million tons of municipal solid waste was combusted for energy recovery in 2006
—U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Helpful Web Sites
➤    www.recyclingit.com
➤    www.greendemolitions.org
➤    www.thebagster.com
➤    www.greenbuilder.com
➤    www.remodeltoday.com
➤    www.ubma.org
➤    www.usgbc.org
➤    epa.gov/epaoswer/non-hw/debris-new
➤    www.thereusepeople.org
➤    www.nahb.org

What You Can Do
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency offers the following advice to ensure an eco-friendly waste disposal for your project:
➤    Contact your local builder’s association, your county solid waste department or your state environmental agency. They will provide information on recyclers and waste haulers in your area.
➤    Consider whether deconstruction techniques can be used to prepare your site for renovation or construction. In some communities, deconstruction auctions are being effectively used to move building materials into the reuse market.
➤    Donate leftover construction and demolition materials to a local affiliate of Habitat for Humanity. 

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